Last weekend my family was invited to visit a farm in rural Nebraska.
People often think that since I live in Omaha, my whole neighborhood is infested with cows and chickens, but not so. My town is like any other suburb in the U.S. Given that I've spent most of my adult life in New York City, farm land is as alien to me as, well, Antarctica.
This was the real deal. There were no cute scarecrows welcoming us or perfect bushels of apples on display. It smelled like cows and manure. There were cats everywhere. I was surrounded by a sea of gold corn stalks for miles and perpetually peppered with dust and flies.
Here I am, out standing in a field:
A handful of gold:
And my daughter, hubbie, and friend in crammed into a "combine"--a $600K machine that harvests, threshes, and removes the kernel from the cob all at once.
We learned about how a hailstorm can ruin millions of dollars worth of crops in an hour. I know more about cow insemination I'll ever need to know (nine year old cryo-sperm still works!). I'll always remember that Holstein cows are the Michael Jordans of the cow world.
I learned what it really takes to be a farmer. You need to know economics, mathematics, weather, chemistry, mechanics, politics, genetics, biology, veterinary medicine, microbiology...
And I thought residency was hard.
I can't guarantee I'll be writing about a farmer in my next book, but glimpsing a life I hadn't remotely experienced was awe-inspiring, and a great education.
And...I do think I became a better writer that day somehow.
When was the last time you stepped outside of your life and saw something that broadened your world view?